Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Heroes

I need to just start getting out all the things I want to post about, so I'm going to start with something I've been meaning to do for a long time - write about the incredible women in my life. And no time could be more appropriate to start than today, my mother's 60th birthday.


My mother is one of those women who looks younger every year. Here's an example (scroll about 3/4 of the way down)- this was just this past summer at the beach. Who looks like this when they are 59 (without really working out on a regular basis and no surgery)? I have always thought that she is the most beautiful woman I know. When I would bring boyfriends home in college, they would look at me and say, hopefully, "is this what you're going to look like in 30 years?"

Her beauty is only surpassed by her amazing capacity to love. She gives of herself completely - to a fault. Most obvious is her commitment to her daughters. I don't have enough space available on this blog to talk about how she has sacrificed for my sister and me. And she continues to do it everyday. What people don't often see is how she gives of herself to other people. I have watched her sacrifice hours of sleep driving back and forth to the town where my grandmother lived to sit by her bed in the nursing home. When she found out that her best friend since childhood had breast cancer, she practically suspended her own life to love and support her. When one of her sisters needs help canning vegetables, preparing for one of their kids weddings, or beauty pageants or church party, or hanging new wallpaper, she drives to the town they live in and helps them. She gives generously of her time and money to those she loves and those she doesn't even know.

She is respected and admired by EVERYONE. She is the financial controller of a large automobile dealership. She has been there for 23 years and I have watched a lot of sales people, mechanics, office workers, etc. come through. Each and every one of them is absolutely terrified of her, but she is the first person they come to when they need anything - whether it is a form signed for work or marriage advice or help dealing with a co-worker or advice on what house to buy. I could make a list of women who have worked for her and consider her their second mother. She cooks them meals, loves their children, throws them parties, teaches them professionalism and self-respect and prays for them.

She is magic with children. My three year old is obsessed with her. I have seen her tame the most unruly children without ever saying a harsh word. I have seen toddlers that have no attention span sit still for the first time ever and let her read books to them. And I have seen the amazing smile on her face when she is sitting in the floor playing cars, or trains, or whatever else he has come up with, with my son.

She has an unwavering faith. We disagree on nearly everything when it comes to our Christianity, except for this - that we have a God who loves us, that each and every human being is a Child of God (even if we disagree on what exactly this means), and that God never fails us. She has spent more money than I could ever count on me and given me more presents than I could possibly remember, but the most precious is the knowledge of those truths.

She is fiercely independent. And she taught her daughters to be the same. I often remind her when she is frustrated, and sometimes even appalled at my religious, social and moral values and beliefs, that she taught us to be independent and make our own choices. She only has herself to blame and can't be upset that we chose differently than her. This characteristic is the blessing and curse she passed on to us. I can take care of myself because of her. And because of her, I sometimes refuse to let anyone else take care of me.

I have patterned my life after my mother. She wouldn't believe that today. We are at a difficult place in our relationship - where we have never been. I can't articulate it, but it has been excruciating for both of us. And there have been days in the past couple of years when I have been angry at her, but I have never lost my admiration and respect for her. And I have never, ever doubted her love for me. Not one day of 32 years - not even for a second.


I haven't posted here in forever. I have a lot going on in my mind that I could write about, but I haven't found the energy - emotionally or physically. In the meantime, I thought I would do something fun. My friend Jill, at Desperately Seeking Spawn "tagged" me. I am supposed to post 7 random facts about myself and then Tag 7 other people, so here goes:

1. I went into labor with my first child at the nail salon. I got a pedicure, had moved on to my nails and the woman told me to go wash my hands. I stood up and my water broke. And I mean BROKE. Not in a trickle, but in the dramatic way that you see on T.V. I wasn't really having contractions, so I called my husband who was bartending at the time. A bus boy answered the phone. I, quite calmly, asked to speak to Carl. He replied "There's no Jessica that works here." Puzzled, I said, "no, I'd like to speak to Carl. "There's no Jessica that works here." Now I was irritated. "I NEED TO SPEAK TO CARL. IT'S AN EMERGENCY." They tell me he dropped the phone and ran to the bar. I told Carl to meet me at the hospital. I knew I had time to drive myself and I didn't want to sit and wait on him. He agreed. The Vietnamese man who owned the nail shop, however, did not. He insisted he was driving me to the hospital, and so he did. On my way out the door I told them I would come back and pay them. They motioned me out the door and said, "don't worry about it." We pulled up at the hospital at the same time as Carl. As I was getting out of the car, I said to the nice man, out of politeness, "please let me pay you." He quickly replied, "OK, 35 dollars."

2. I was 17 years old the first time I got on an airplane. This makes me laugh since my 3 year old has flown 3 times already.

3. I spent a semester in college in Northern Ireland (Londonderry). The trip there was the 2nd time I had been on an airplane. When I left to go to Northern Ireland, I was 19 and engaged. When I returned, I was 20 and single. My fiance broke up with me over the phone just 2 weeks after I got there. Don't ask why I was engaged at 19. That's another post.

4. I have played two instruments in my life - I played the flute in the middle school band. Pretty sure I don't remember how to play. I took piano lessons for 9 years and really suck at playing the piano.

5. If God told me I could have any artistic talent, I would want to sing. Like Sheryl Crow or Alecia Keyes.

6. I sold cars for 3 months in Indianapolis after graduation from college.

7. When I was a little girl (up until I was 12 or so), when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, in all seriousness, "a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader."

OK, so here are the 7 (actually 4) people I tag:

1. Darah @ A Girl Named Gus
2. TAG @ Tea Worthy
3. Melissa @ Just Me
4. Dawn @ Renaissance Mama (I know we don't know each other, but I love following your blog - and you should meet my friend, Darah, above, by the way)
5. Yikes! I don't know if I know 3 other people who keep blogs and read this one. There are only 3 of you who read it to begin with! So, to be continued . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008


I love reading my old journals. I wish I still wrote in one regularly, but I don't. It's very, very sporadic. For instance, I have a journal that is almost half full. The first entry in it is from 8/19/04 and the last is from 7/20/08. I re-read all of the entries recently and I was stuck by the first one, so I thought I would re-type it here. Remember that we moved from L.A. to Lexington in June of '04


I am on the plane, on my way to L.A. It's very surreal. I wish I was staying for longer than 3 nights. Even though I have peace about our move to Kentucky, something about the thought of the plane landing and stepping off into that place I love and hate, makes me incredibly happy. I have such an affection for so many places I have lived. I fell the same when i drive into Indianapolis or arrive in South Bend. I often dream of the tears of joy if I ever get to go back to Northern Ireland. Every place feels likes home. I think it's because of the flood of emotions and memories that come up each time - they are so real, I can almost taste, touch, hear them. In each place, a new piece of me has been formed. For L.A., there is a particular affection. I started my career, I met my husband, I lived as an adult for the first time. When I met Carl I was more self-aware, more comfortable in my own skin than I ever had been - and more so than I am now. Sometimes when I think about us living in Lexington, I think, "I am finally home." But then every time I step off the plane or drive into one of those familiar cities I feel like that place is home. I suppose it is. Home is where I grow and change - where I love and get my heart broken, where I make friends and lose friends and I meet people who see the me that is when I am in that place. I used to think only one place could be home - where you could feel safe and loved and be "yourself." But in each of those places, I am my self - the self that has evolved as a result of my experiences there. And each time I come home, I am reminded of who I was when I first arrived and who I was when I first left and I know better who I am now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The redemption of George Wallace

Wow. Read this article by Peggy Wallace Kennedy about her father, George Wallace, and her support of Barack Obama. Being a child of the South and having witnessed redemption in the lives of so many family members and loved ones with regard to their views on race, I found it very touching.

Here's an excerpt:
When I was a young voter and had little interest in politics, my father
would mark my ballot for me. As I thought about the woman in the cemetery, I
mused that if he were alive and I had made the same request for this election,
there would be a substantial chance, though not a certainty, that he would put
an "X" by Obama's name.
Perhaps it would be the last chapter in his search for inner peace that became so important to him after becoming a victim of hatred and violence himself when he was shot and gravely injured in a Laurel, Maryland, shopping center parking lot. Perhaps it would be a way of reconciling in his own mind that what he once stood for did not prevent freedom of opportunity and self-advancement from coming full circle; his final absolution.

And I love this line:

Today, Barack Obama is hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans. He
stands on the shoulders of all those people who have incessantly prayed for a
day when "justice will run down like waters and righteousness as a mighty
stream" (Amos 5:24).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dear Jordan and Trevor,

Today, you were a part of making history. You accompanied daddy and me to vote for the President of the United States. We voted for a man named Barack Obama. Like you, Barack Obama is biracial. Your mommy, like his, is white, and your daddy is black and Indian. Barack Obama’s father was black, born in a country called Kenya. Barack Obama is the first black man to be selected as a political party’s nominee for President. I know you are too young to understand the significance of that. Really, mommy and daddy are even too young to truly understand it. But not that long ago (in the lifetime of your gramma, nana and grandpas), it would not have been possible. People are sometimes scared of what is different and for a long time, in our country, many white people were scared of people with darker skin than them. For reasons I cannot explain, many white people even thought they were better than black people. So they made rules and laws to keep black people, and others, from doing certain things, like eating at the same restaurants as them, drinking from the same water fountain and even voting . It would not have been possible then for Barack Obama to run for President. But today, the world changed, and you were a part of making that happen.

Equally important is that a woman named Sarah Palin is running for Vice-President with the Republican nominee, John McCain. We didn’t vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin, but it is important for you to know, as boys, that you have privileges that have not always been allowed to women. Just like white people didn’t allow black people to do certain things, women have not been allowed to do the same things as men. As a matter of fact, black men were allowed to vote before women of any color were allowed to vote. Sarah Palin, like Barack Obama, is brave, and has been a part of changing the world for people like your mommy, your aunties, and your cousin Gracie, who we will get to meet soon.

It is so important that you remember that all people – of all colors, from all countries, whether they are men or women, gay or straight– are part of God’s creation and we should treat them all with the same love and respect that we want them to treat us. Mommy and Daddy voted for Barack Obama today, not because of the color of his skin, but because we believe in what he wants to do to make our country, and our world, a better place to live, for all of us. Because of people like him, and because of what you helped us do today, you can be anything you want to be.


Monday, November 3, 2008

First Amendment

One of my pet peeves is when people talk about their "rights," but don't have any idea what they are talking about. It seems like every time a government, or worse, private business decision, is made that affects someone personally, they claim their "rights" are being violated. Read the Bill of Rights. I understand that they are open to some interpretation, but they are really pretty clear. The First Amendment right to "free speech" seems to be one of the most abused, and apparently, even our illustrious Republican vice-presidential candidate doesn't understand it. If you need a primer on the First Amendment, or you need another reason to be scared if Sarah Palin goes to Washington, read here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Old Kentucky Home

Thank God my kids are so young, because I'm just not ready for the day I have to explain this to them.

When my husband and I decided to get married, my dad and I had a huge falling out over his ignorance and racism. I thought that he was going to no longer be a part of my life. The transformation that happened in his life after that was miraculous, but that's for another post. No one else gave me grief over being in a mixed race relationship, but my mother did express some concern over the adversity we might face, and more importantly, what life might be like for our kids. I remember almost laughing and telling her "Mom, it's not like we're going to be living back in Kentucky. We live in Los Angeles." I never imagined coming back here, raising kids here or being married to my husband here. For the most part, we have been pleasantly surprised at the open-mindedness here in Lexington. But, it is a University town, so more is to be expected. And here I am, only 6.5 miles from the University of Kentucky campus where Barack Obama was hung in effigy today. Did I mention that just a few weeks ago, my husband and I saw an old redneck man driving a truck with a bumper sticker that says "Obama is my n****r"? No kidding. My husband took a picture just to prove it. Like the shoe-shining photo, I refuse to reproduce it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Matthew Shepard

I can't believe it's been ten years. Here's a great article about how little progress we've made.

And here's an interview with Kentucky's Fairness Campaign's co-founder.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Great story here about an InterVarsity chapter dealing with the issues I talk about below.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I've had it.

It's taken me almost an entire week to be able to write about this because I was so angry on Sunday that my comments would have been nothing but hateful, and hateful is what I am angry about. I have grown up in church all my life. Mostly in the South in a very conservative evangelical church tradition. I remember thinking that to be a Christian, you had to be a Republican. Really, I was mortified when I found out that a good friend's parents were Democrats. I prayed for them. I remember seeing "voter's guides" near election time sitting in the church narthex. I never questioned their validity or propriety.

As I got older (and more educated), and more open-minded, my political views began to change. The change was, ironically, largely influenced by my faith. I also began to understand the danger in the church telling people how to vote and began to read the "voter's guides" with a more critical eye, and mind. And at some point, my feelings toward the religious right, Focus on the Family, etc. evolved into outright anger. I began to see how they had hijacked the faith for their political purposes. Nonetheless, I still respected my Republican friends and held many of the same values as them. After moving to Los Angeles, I was rarely confronted with the single-mindedness of my upbringing and even at church, was usually surrounded by mostly liberal-thinking individuals.

When we moved back to Kentucky, I didn't pay that much attention to religion and politics. I was prepared for the world were entering, even though my Los Angeles born and raised husband was not, and I just accepted that I was going to be in the minority around my Christian friends. I was able to deal with that until this election and particularly, until this Sunday. Now, I've had it.

It really started a few months back when my husband, a black man, received an absolutely appalling email from a "Christian" friend. This friend had been sending him Obama-bashing forwards and Republican propoganda for quite some time and my husband being the non-confrontational person he is, just ignored them. Until this particular email. It was a picture of Barack Obama shining Sarah Palin's shoes!!!! I can't do it justice by just typing that sentence, but I refuse to republish it here. He told me about it and I was appalled, but when he forwarded it to me and I saw it, I cried. The image was so shocking and so blatently racist that my heart absolutely broke over the idea that my beautiful, compassionate, loving husband had to open it and see it - from a friend whose daughter my husband had pastored as a youth pastor. In a very uncharacteristic move, he replied all and told the friend that he was hurt and offended. Then, being the sweet soul that he is, he replied all again AND APOLOGIZED because he felt like he had called the man a racist in front of a lot of people and he doesn't believe that the man is a racist. The scathing response he received is beyond explanation. Apparently this guy's other "black friend" had responded simlarly. The guy proceeded to accuse my husband and this other man, and really, all Obama supporters of being racists. He said that he had invited "more black people into his home than the two of them combined." (My husband asked me "is this kind of response something they teach you in your meetings?" - presumably the "white people meetings" we all attend, of course). He then berated Obama, accused him of being an "empty suit" and at the end, said, "I'm sorry if I offended you." (very sincere).

So, Sunday. I go to church and in the narthex there is a table with a "family values" voter's guide. I don't know why I picked it up. I knew it would piss me off. But I did. And it did. It had all the Kentucky candidates - for U.S. Senator, State Senator and something else. And it asked a serious of unbelievably loaded questions about issues that affect "family values." Of course, all of the Democrats chose not to answer. Because, at this point, they realize that anyone relying on these ridiculous guides isn't going to vote for them anyway. And answering these loaded questions truthfully is going to make you look worse in the eyes of the people who read them than not answering them at all. I read it and I was irritated, but I decided to go into church with a good attitude because I had seen these before and I shouldn't have expected anything else from our lilly-white, mostly upper-class church. I listend to the pastor's sermon, and it was good. I felt challenged and inspired, like you are supposed to feel in church. Then, at the end, the pastor encouraged everyone to pick up one the "non-partisan" voter guides and my blood began to boil again. Non-partisan??? Give me a break. Just be honest and tell people that you are advocating for a particular party. OH WAIT, you can't. You aren't supposed to do that as a church, and as a matter of fact, you would lose your tax exempt status, so you have to pretend to be "fair and balanced." Kind of like FOX news, I suppose. I left church irritated, but I quickly put it behind me because I just didn't want to think about it. But then came the email. From my Sunday School teacher. I love and respect her greatly. As a matter of fact, she and her husband were instrumental in saving my marriage. And I know that we have wildly divergent views on social, moral and political issues and that she is a staunch Republican. She LOVES George W. That staunch. But I didn't expect this from her:

This is the scariest election we as Christians have ever faced. From the looks of
the polls, the Christians aren't voting Christian values. We all need to be on our
knees. Do you believe we can take God at His word? Call upon His name, then
standback and watch His wonders to behold. His scripture gives us, as Christians,
ownership of this land and the ability to call upon God to heal it.

I challenge you to do so. We have never been more desperate than now for God to heal our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 : If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

During WWII, there was an advisor to Churchill who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every night at a prescribed hour for one minute to collectively pray for the safety of England , its people and peace. This had an
amazing effect as bombing stopped.

There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America , The United States of America and our citizens need prayer more than ever!!

If you would like to participate: each evening at 9:00 PM Eastern Time, 8:00 PM
Central, 7:00 PMMountain, 6:00 PM Pacific, stop whatever you are doing and spend
one minute praying for the safety of the United States , our troops, our
citizens, for peace in the world, for wisdom and courage for our leaders, the
up-coming election, and that the Bible will remain the basis for the laws
governing our land and that Christianity will grow in the U.S.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, please pass this along. Someone said if people really understood the full extent of thepower we have available through prayer, we might be speechless. Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have. Thank You.

Please pass this onto anyone who you think will want to
join us. God Bless You!!!

It was a forward, of course, and had a picture of a little boy and his dad, or grandfather praying together. My blood was boiling. The arrogance and audacity it takes to promote the idea that the only Christian values that matter are the ones that are important to Republicans is unbelievable to me. These people really believe that God cares more about the legal status of abortion and gay marriage than he does about the innocent lives that are being lost in Iraq, the lack of education and poverty that lead many people to be in a position to have an abortion, the lack of quality healthcare that causes babies who are already here to die, and I could go on and on and on. Look, I don't like abortion. I wish it didn't exist. And I personally think it's a horrible thing. But I don't think making it illegal is going to fix the problem and I don't think it's the issue that takes precedence over every other problem facing our country. And if you think gay people are the cause of the downfall of marriage in this society, than you are beyond hope because you clearly have no ability to reason or apply logic. I can respect my Republican friend's viewpoints, but I CANNOT tolerate being told that I, as a Christian, have to vote a particular way. Particuarly, when upon closer examination, the policies that are dictating that belief aren't even the priorities of the Jesus that I read about in my Bible.

I've been typing for over 30 minutes and I am supposed to be finishing up some work, so I'm quitting now, but really, I could write about this forever. Here's some thoughts from Jim Wallis on the topic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Wonderful Husband

So, with the last post being about our divorce/annulment and having said some borderline negative things about marriage in that and other posts, I feel moved to say some nice things about my husband. Here are some of the reasons why I love him:

(1) He has unbelievable compassion for people. He has the rare quality of being able to see a person's circumstances and have a truly loving heart for all kinds of people - even those others find unloveable.

(2) He loves his family sacrificially.

(3) He sees the beauty in people that aren't beautiful by the worlds standards. We aren't having any more children biologically, but I hope that we can one day adopt a little girl so he can make her feel beautiful because he has such a wonderful ability to see the beauty in women and girls that they don't see in themselves.

(4) He is the most handsome man I know. Seriously, he's gorgeous. I am constantly humbled that he is attracted to me (I almost don't want to type that because I know how it might sound. really - my self-esteem is just fine - I just adore my husband).

(5) He is a fiercely loyal friend.

(6) He loves God, but isn't afraid to question - and to listen to my millions of questions.

(7) He's very, very funny.

(8) We have the same favorite ice cream - mint chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins.

(9) He loved Kentucky basketball before I met him.

(10) He is an amazing father who isn't afraid to love his sons, to change diapers, to feed them, to pick out their clothes, to put them to bed, to read them stories, to play ball with them. I literally never worry about his competence to take care of them without me or question his love and commitment to them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More on Marriage

Someone happened across this blog recently and left a comment about how it resonated with her. It came on just the right day - a day when I was feeling very misunderstood. I read her blog and also felt a conneciton. She lives on the other side of the country and until she left that comment, she was a complete stranger. I love that about the internet and think maybe I've found my answer to why I felt the need to blog instead of write privately in a journal at home. OK, I know that sometimes I take a long time to get to my point and you might be saying, that's great, but what does this have to do with marriage and the title of this post? I'm getting there. This same person left another comment, under my "Anniversary" post and said she wanted to hear more about this divorce/annulment thing. I responded with an email and oddly, gave more details than I would have imagined giving to a complete stranger, but for some reason I felt compelled. I'm now reminded that I need to write about it here. Not in the same detail, but to express my views on marriage. The discussion is very appropriate for this tension I have between my faith, my womanhood, my feminism and my liberal tendencies. I'll warn you that what I have to say may not be very popular with you if you are a feminist, but for me, it's truth.

First, the extremely abridged version of my story. Met my husband 7 years ago. Married 1 1/2 years later. Moved from Los Angeles, back to my home state of Kentucky 1 year later. Got pregnant less than 6 months later. Baby #1 was born (obviously, 9 months later). During the course of all of that, hit some major road blocks in our marriage. Husband decided he wanted to separate. Soon after, husband said he wanted to divorce. I didn't fight it. We divorced. We lived lives that were still intertwined and took oddly, much criticism for our efforts to raise our child together. About 9-12 months later, husband came to his senses. We reconciled. I discovered that in Kentucky you can annul your divorce. Filed a motion with the court, divorce decree was set aside. Legally, it never happened. Surprisingly got pregnant only 1 month later. Baby #2 was born 5 months ago.

So, here's what I have to say and what I learned.

(1) I don't believe in divorce. I begged my parents to divorce, and they did. They were miserable and they are happier now. I have known women that I thought should leave their husbands and vice versa. And I know people who appear to have met their "soul mates" in a subsequent marriage. BUT, I realized that I, personally, don't believe in divorce. Of course, all of my close family and friends thought our breakup was my husband's fault. I'm not going to assign blame here because the truth is no relationship ever fails because of one person. But what I learned and what I kept explaining to everyone about why I found it so hard to even try to move on was that if I did, I was breaking a covenant. On our wedding day, in front of all of our family and friends, and more importantly, God, I made a promise - and it was unconditional - to love, honor and respect him. Period. I didn't add the words "if you do the same for me." Now, I don't want to start a debate about the potential dangers of this way of thinking. Let me be clear, I don't believe women who are abused should ever, ever stay in an abusive relationship. I do believe, however, that as long as my children and I are safe, I am obligated to fulfill my promise to God, and to my husband. It sounds weird, but when I finally got this, it was very freeing. I didn't feel trapped at all, but I felt like I was choosing and honoring my choice. Frankly, I think it's much harder to think lightly of marriage and to keep looking around for perfection. Marriage is hard - harder for some than others. I have a friend who prefers the word "challenging" to "hard," but however you couch it, it's not Cinderella and Prince Charming. The idea of a constant quest to find what doesn't exist makes me feel trapped. Loving the person I choose, faults and all, is freeing. (I suppose it's the lawyer in me, but I feel that I need another disclaimer - I am not suggesting that this is truth for anyone else - it's mine. Every situation is different and I firmly believe every person's relationship with God is extremely individual. Divorce is an unfortunate reality in our world and I don't judge anyone who makes that difficult decision.)

(2) People want you to be bitter and angry. They thrive off of it. Really, it's eery. I felt so much pressure to be mad, to talk bad about my husband, and even to make it difficult for him to see our son. And this came from Christians, non-Christians, men, women, etc. It was amazing and very disturbing. Children, especially very young ones, don't chose divorce and I am constantly amazed and appaled at the educated, successful people who behave selfishly in relation to their children in the process and aftermath of divorce. I don't feel like I've done a lot of things exactly right in my life, but I have to say, I could not be prouder of the way that my husband and I handled our relationship with our son while we were apart. And I know that I was right in choosing (yes, that word again) to not be angry. I watched someone live with bitterness my whole life and that person still carries it around. It literally eats away at them. And it only hurts them, not the person at whom it is directed. I don't want anything to do with it.

Even the Right sees the Problem with Sarah

Here is a conservative calling for her to bow out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Anniversary

I'm not one of those people who keeps up with random dates. I do well to remember the birthdays of my family members, but I remember today. I met my husband 7 years ago today - the Sunday after September 11. It was my first night volunteering with the junior high youth group at Brentwood Prebyterian Church in Brentwood, California and it was his last night as the junior high youth director. We have had a crazy 7 years. Here we are, a move to Kentucky, a child, a divorce, an annulment of that divorce, and another child later. In the midst of a ton of external stress that isn't going away anytime soon. And I think we're happier than we've been in a very long time. I don't regret any of it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I love this guy.

Brett Berk. Hysterical.

Love, Mommy

I try to be intentional about buying books for our children that reflect all parts of their heritage. I would like to think I would be just as intentional about making sure they had diverse characters in their books even if they weren't multi-racial, but I know that it's especially important to me because I want them to understand who they are. I have witnessed many friends who are either bi-racial or have grown up in an all-white culture, when they are not white, have an identity crisis sometime between 18 and actual adulthood (if that even exists), and while I know there's no way to guarantee that I'll prevent that, I'd like to do everything I can for now. I just read a wonderful book to Jordan called The Sweet Smell of Roses about little girls who sneak out a join a civil rights march led by Dr. King. The author is Angela Johnson and there are beautiful illustrations by Eric Velasquez. My heart skips a beat when Jordan sees the picture of the man preaching and says "Dr. King!!!" And tonight, I explained to him that Dr. King was talking to people about love. When I asked him later, he was able to repeat that to me. Sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn't, but it seems he always listens when it's a really important message like that. On the days when you wonder if you are making a difference in the world, there's nothing better than hearing your 3 year old, in response to the question, "What is Dr. King talking about?", respond "Love, mommy."

Some other beautiful children's books I've found lately -

My Brother Martin

The Lord's Prayer (The illustrations in this one are incredible.)

He's Got the Whole World In His Hands

Sunday, September 14, 2008

By the Way

I wonder what Olympia Snow, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Elizabeth Dole think about McCain's choice of Sarah Palin? Not what they say publicly, but what they really think about him picking the young, "hot" governor (not that any of them are old, and they are all beautiful women). Surely, they speak to their trusted friends and spouses about the gimmick of it all. It's an age old story, isn't it - older women being passed over for the younger, hotter and less experienced ones? Politics is a lot like show business in that way (and many others, of course). The men become more distinguished and attractive as they age, the women, just old.

White privilege

Good stuff here. I'm reading all the links she has in the post (in my spare time, of course) and I have lots to say about this soon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Sarah

Really, I don't want this to turn into a political blog, but I know I can't not talk about Sarah Palin.

Here's Gloria Steinem's perspective. Most convincing is this quote:

"Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq, she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."

I suppose there's an argument that her honesty is refreshing. Instead of giving a political answer, she gives an honest one.

A Republican friend and I had an email exchange today about the issues surrounding Palin. She asked me why I think she's a gimmick and validly pointed out that every VP pick is a gimmick.
"Obama gets criticized on experience so he picks Biden. Kerry was a northeastern liberal so he picks a young, southern democrat to appeal to democrats who aren't as far left as the northeastern liberals and to independents. Gore is a southern democrat, so he picks Lieberman to appeal to the northeast and the independents. McCain had to pick someone young, attractive and charismatic, whether it was a man or a woman, and he needed to pick someone further to the right than him in order to bring back in the Christian conservative base."

My reply was this: Yes, every VP pick is a gimmick in a way and Joe Biden is no exception. I think McCain's pick of Palin, however, is particularly offensive to some (including me) because picking a woman is historic and it's important. The message you send with the woman you pick is very important. Like it or not, everyone is watching to see if she can make it and whether she does or doesn't will set the tone for how the majority of people feel about the competency of a woman in that high of a political office. Obama has a similar pressure. So, (1) many people don't believe that John McCain would have otherwise picked a woman, (2) he picked a "pretty" woman who seems to, despite her tenacity and success, take a backseat to him, not just as the potential president, but I think there is something about her demeanor that makes it seem like she is deferring to him as a "man" - I know that's reading a lot into it, but I've read articles by people who feel the same (3) there are other more qualified women in the Republican party - Kay Bailey Hutchison, Elizabeth Dole, etc. Why this woman hardly anyone had heard of before he picked her? I know she appeals to the far right, but really, she isn't qualified and the potential for her having to take over as President is stronger than with some VPs (Joe Biden also has a strong potential in my opinion, because I have no doubt there will be attempts at Obama's life, but that's an aside).

We had a very long exchange besides this - about qualifications and my struggle about my feelings on her as a mother. I won't share the whole exchange because I haven't asked her permission, but I really enjoy having political discussions with people who can respect what I have to say and who have intelligent things to say in response. I like politics, but admit to not being as well versed in all the issues as I should. Sadly, I know more than 90% of the American public.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Avoiding Sarah

So, it's about time. I've been avoiding her for over a week now because, well, she confuses me. But I really can't have a blog about the trials of a working mother and not talk about the pink elephant in the middle of the room can I? I want to - because I don't know what to think and my head starts spinning every time I try to decide, but here I sit with my glass of wine (which, oddly enough, has stopped my head from spinning) and I've decided that though I'm not really ready, it's time to write about her.

When McCain first announced his running mate, I was pissed. No one had ever heard of her and she did not appear to have any qualifications. I was sure it was a publicity stunt and an insulting one, at that. He just went out and found a token woman - a pretty one - to save his campaign. Then, I read about her. And she intrigued me. So I set my DVR and watched her convention speech. First thought: "God, her voice is annoying." Second thought: "Wow, she's really feisty. I kind of like her." Third thought: "She scares me." Both because she's so far to the right and because I think she is a formidible threat. Also: "Really good jabs at Obama. They're low, but someone wrote some good one-liners for her."

So after the speech, I didn't know what to think. I kind of liked her. I was moved by the historic significance of the GOP choosing a woman and the potential for her to be our first female vice-president and even good chance of being president (does anyone else have a hard time talking about John McCain's potential to die in office so flippantly??? it seems like we've just resigned that the poor guy won't live more than a year or so. he's only in his 70s . . ... But, I digress). I talked to people about it. Men and women, republicans and democrats and everyone seemed to love her speech. One republican woman I know went from being so offended that McCain picked her to re-considering her vow not to vote for him.

What bothered me afer the speech was, well, what bothered me. I'm ashamed to admit it but I sincerely wondered how she could leave her smallest child, who she was still breastfeeding, and has special needs, to pursue this. I thought about the stories about her going back to work only a few days after more than one of her children was born and I judged her. Who does that? What job is that important?

I know. Maybe I wouldn't ask these questions of a man, but they are being asked and I don't think they are bad questions. After we found out she was sick, we all asked how John Edwards would be able to take care of his wife if he was running for president. I think these are legitimate questions. I don't think the question of whether a woman can work and have a family should still be asked, but we're not talking about a small family, and we're not talking about an ordinary family. And we're certainly not talking about an ordinary job. We're talking about the family of a woman who is running for vice-president.

I'm confused. Here are some more thoughts:



Monday, September 1, 2008

Political Civility

I often follow Jim Wallis and his efforts to get Christians talking about all of the issues facing America, and not just the few that evangelicals have historically harped on - i.e., abortion and homosexuality. I really like this post on his blog God's Politics, calling for civility among Christians in the political process this year. Here's an excerpt, his "Five Rules of Christian Civility":

1. We Christians should be in the pocket of no political party; but should evaluate
both candidates and parties by our biblically based moral compass.
2. We don't vote on only one issue, but see biblical foundations for our concerns over many issues.
3. We advocate a consistent ethic of life from womb to tomb, and one
that challenges the selective moralities of both the left and the right.
4. We will respect the integrity of our Christian brothers and sisters in their
sincere efforts to apply Christian commitments to the important decisions of
this election; knowing that people of faith and conscience will be voting both
ways in this election year.
5. We will not attack our fellow Christians as Democratic or Republican partisans, but rather will expect and respect the practice of putting our faith first in this election year; even if we reach different conclusions.


I often find myself writing about things that were triggered by my friend's blog, Teaworthy. She also blogs for Skirt!, and once again, I have to link to her post. I can't wait to see this movie.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


So, the organizer came and met with us Tuesday night. The most exciting thing about our meeting was learning that she used to design closets for a closet company and that she can design a closet system for our bedroom that will make better use of our space. I'm so excited! She came over this morning and helped us start working on the kitchen. We spent three hours re-arranging and purging and she helped us use the small amount of space we have in a much wiser and more logical way. Just off of our kitchen, is a laundry room/pantry. It has been a mess forever. Our plan was to work on it at our next appointment in two weeks, but I was so motivated and inspired by this morning, that I had to start working on it. I really started digging into it around 2:30. I just finished - 11:30. There's really no way you can truly appreciate this if you've never seen this room, and I didn't take before pictures, but I thought I would share the afters:

Friday, August 29, 2008

The World is Different Today.

A friend wrote beautifully about her pride in taking her child to the polls here.

I wrote about voting in the primaries here.

And a friend emailed this to me this morning:

Last night was stunning. In my lifetime the Civil Rights Act was
bullied through an unwilling Congress by Lyndon Johnson, and less than 20% of eligible black voters even voted
in the South because of poll tests, harrassment, and threats and violence.
I simply can't imagine what black men and women my age must have been
thinking. Can't imagine.

I'm just overwhelmed. I'm so proud that my boys get to grow up with the role models available to them now. And I love that my three year old knows the names of the presidential candidates and excitedly shreaks "Barack Obama" and even "John McCain" when he sees them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I received this email today and had to share.

It had pictures in it, but I don't know how to cut and paste them into this.


This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived
only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920
that women were granted
the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless
for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the
end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and
their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted
of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above
her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis) They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head
against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought
Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the
guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and
kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at
the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the
suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White
House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open
pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul) When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger
strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured
liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until
word was smuggled out to the press. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/prisoners.pdf

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because- -why,
exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't
matter? It's raining?Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's
new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these
women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my
say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.All these years later, voter
registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less
personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation
than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.My friend Wendy, who is my age
and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk
to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept
coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women
think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for
granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The
right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'HBO
released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and
government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown
on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our
usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should
be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.It is jarring to watch
Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice
Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is
inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave.
That didn't make her crazy.The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is
often mistaken for insanity.' Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to
all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was
fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic,
republican or independent party - remember to vote.History is being made.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Here's an honest woman. I found this article fascinating. An unfortunate view of marriage on the one hand, but an honest one that maybe a lot of us have and don't talk about on the other. Here's an excerpt:

We were groomed to think bigger and better -- achievement was our
birthright -- so it's no small surprise that our marriages are more freighted.
Marriage and its cruel cohort, fidelity, are a lot to expect from anyone, much
less from swift-flying us. Would we agree to wear the same eyeshadow or eat in
the same restaurant every day for a lifetime? Nay, cry the villagers, the echo
answers nay. We believe in our superhood. We count on it.

So, did our feminist foremothers set us up for failure? Or were they just trying to empower us so that we wouldn't buy into the notion of having to be a better better

Either way, many of us semi-bought into it. As the tail end of the
baby boomers/mavericks of Gen X, we still had one foot in the Good Girl pond, or
at least the wet footprints leading out of it. In the beginning, we felt obliged
to join the race to have it all; being married was an integral part of the
contest and heaven forfend we should be disqualified.

Flash-forward to 10 years later, when we discover that we can get it all but whose harebrained scheme was this anyway? We can get jobs, get pregnant, get it done. We can try -- with varying levels of success -- to get sleep, get fit, get control, and get
those important Me-moments where one keeps a journal with thought-provoking
lists that go "I'm a woman first, a mother second, a laundress third." We get
upset, we get over it. What we don't always get is: Why.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


For the past three posts, I've mentioned how disorganized my house is. You may have noted that this is bothering me a lot lately. Well, I finally decided to really do something about it (besides just rearranging or cleaning out my closets for the 12th time this year). I have a professional organizer coming over for a consultation next Wednesday. I'm so excited! This is the beginning of the end of the chaos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stay at Home Wives

Now here is an interesting article. And even more interesting are the comments below it. People have strong feelings about this subject. Frankly, I don't know what mine are. Part of me doesn't understand it. I can't imagine not working, much less not working and having no kids. Then again, I can. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I don't think I would work. And recently, I advised my sister, who is pregnant, to take her boyfriend up on his offer that she doesn't have to work. I wish I had time to volunteer more and to cook and have a clean, organized house (OK, who am I kidding, I would have a maid). I'm a little angry at the vehement comments from women in reaction to this article. There is a part of me who feels guilty for not wanting it "all" because that's what so many women fought for me to have, but really, didn't they fight for me to have the option? The women in this story are simply exercising their options. If they are happy and I'm still allowed to choose my career, isn't that what we have always wanted?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Household Chores

I thought this was an interesting post. My husband and I don't really have a "system" for who does the housework or who does what for the kids, but I think in the end, it's pretty even. The housework probably falls a little more heavily on me sometimes, but as long as it's not a huge imbalance, I'm OK with that. Frankly, neither of us are very neat, so the maid who comes every two weeks bears the brunt of the load.

I would really like to have a clean and organized house, but I truly don't know how two people who work full-time jobs that require more than full-time work, with two small children, can possibly have such a thing. Maybe if I could ever get the house organized to start with, we could try to keep it that way, but there isn't enough room, we have too much stuff and it all seems to just expand every time I think I'm starting to get it under control.

My sister, who is 8 years younger than me, just moved into a new house with her boyfriend. She has been decorating and organizing it and frankly, I'm a little jealous. Everything is new and she has more bedrooms and more closets than I do. My mom has been helping her clean and get set up (as she did for me).

I talked to my mom a few days ago and she said that she was telling Amanda, "if you do these things regularly (wipe down baseboards, clean windows, etc. ), it will be easier to keep your house clean." I lamented that with two kids and our jobs, I just don't have time to do all of that. My mom then said, "well, I work as much as you do, and had two kids and no help from your dad and I managed to do it." Thanks, Mom. I needed to be reminded that you're superwoman and I'm not.

Sometimes, I really wish I was like her. Others, I'm happy that I am not so OCD that I can't sit in front of my TV and have a glass of wine without feeling guilty that there is chaos around me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Who Will I Be?

My dvr is set to record Oprah every day. I don't always watch it, but when I'm feeding the baby or sitting down for a break and I can't find anything I like on TV, I scroll through the Oprah recordings to see if anything interests me. Today, it was a rerun of an interview with Maria Shriver about her book, "Just Who Will You Be?" I haven't read the book, but I intend to go to the bookstore this week and get it. Apparently, Shriver wrote the book with high school and college students in mind, but it is actually about her awakening that just happened a few years ago and it has struck a chord with women everywhere.

Shriver describes "losing herself" after she became the "Governor's wife" and was asked to leave her job as a journalist. She talks about trying to conform herself to the expectations of others, growing up in a family that was in the spotlight and being ever cognizant of how her actions might reflect on the family and about what they expected from her. A couple of years ago she realized that she didn't know who she was and had lost herself in the shadow of her husband and her family. Through this process of self-realization, she made pledges to herself, one of which stuck with me - "I pledge to show up every day as myself."

Like the women on the show who told Maria how they identified with her, I found myself thinking, "I wish my husband would watch this show. I think he would understand me better if he did." I listened and watched as the women talked about the freedom of putting yourself first every once in a while and not feeling guilty about it, about finding your identity apart from your role as a (enter your career here), a mother or a wife. and about allowing yourself to be still and quiet for at least 10 minutes a day.

I never imagined that I could lose myself. I think there are plenty of people in my life who would be equally shocked at that idea. I have always convinced people that I am self-assured and that I know what I want. I have a lot of opinions and am rarely afraid to express them. Because of that, people put me in a box in which I'm not sure I belong. There are many days I wake up and wonder if I can contine the charade. If today will be the day that someone finds out that I'm not really that smart. Or that someone realizes that I really don't have that much self-confidence. Or that someone comes to my house and sees what a disorganized mess it is. Or that they realize that I lose my patience with my children easily. Or that I'm a nagging wife sometimes. The list could go on and on and on . . . ..

I used to think I was the only person who felt this way, but as I have begun to become more vulnerable and reveal myself to others, I have found that it's a nearly universal feeling for women. And this feeling prevents us from showing up as ourselves everyday. Until I do that, and find out just who I am, I can't answer the question, just who will I be.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

So . . . . How Is It?

I have answered this question, or some form of it, every day, several times a day, for the past two weeks. It's in reference to leaving the baby at day care and being back at work. What is the appropriate response to this question? "Oh, I'm miserable. I cry all the time. I miss him so much." Is that what people want to hear? I don't think they know what to do when I say, "It's fine." Very confidently. I always get, "Oh, I know it's hard to be away. I know you'll miss him, but it will get better." It's like they didn't hear me. I do miss him. I miss both my children during the day, but I don't spend all day thinking about that. Don't get me wrong, I think about them and how wonderful they are and how much I love them, but I don't wallow in guilt. Maybe you're thinking that I'm trying to make up for guilt by writing so much about this, but really, I am not. I am just so uncomfortable and puzzled by how to explain to people that (1) I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom and I am not ashamed of that and (2) I really believe my kids benefit from the day care setting they are in and from having a mother who intellectually challenges herself everyday and contributes to the community. Now let me be clear - I am not suggesting that women who stay at home do not intellectually challenge themselves or contribute to their communities. I am saying that, for me, working and sending my children to a day care that I love and trust is the best option for accomplishing that right now. That could change tomorrow. But I really want people to believe me when I tell them that I'm OK.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Community of Women

So, I just read a post about this essay on a friend's blog and had to link to it also. It's exactly what I needed.

AIDS in America

Anyone who knows me, knows that one of the causes I am most passionate about is HIV/AIDS. If you know this, you have also heard my rant about how AIDS in America has been largely ignored over the past 10 or so years, and in particular over the past 8 years by the current presidential administration. The AIDS epidimic in Africa is horrible and something we should all be concerned about and aware of, but it cannot be at the cost of ignoring AIDS in America. It's more popular for people to be concerned about AIDS in Africa because we focus on the images of the children who are acquiring it from their mothers and the orphans of those who have been infected with the disease. We don't attach moral judgment. In America, we've become complacent to the cause, we've convinced ourselves that there are drugs to treat it (we think everyone can be like Magic Johnson), and we judge the actions that often lead to it - (i.e., homosexual sex, promiscous sex, intravenous drug use, etc.). As a result, it's on the rise. I keep wondering when the mainstream media is going to start seriously talking about this problem. I was so happy to open up http://www.cnn.com/ and see this. And in keeping with the female theme of this blog, here's a particularly shocking statistic from the article:

"AIDS remains the leading cause of death among black women between ages 25 and 34."

P.S. Here's another article. Read the comments at the end if you want a reminder of people's ignorance.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Women of Notre Dame, continued.

I said in my last post that I learned the importance of the friendships of women at Notre Dame. When I started law school, of course, I had women friends. But I was always one of those girls who was more comfortable around guys. I wasn't a tomboy, I just didn't like the competition among women. I trusted men more. This was ironic, considering my past experiences with men, but that's another post. Before I started law school, a very good friend, S., told me that my attitude about women and my declaration that I just didn't like being friends with them as much as men was basically bullshit. It was my own insecurity prohibiting me from experiencing the joy of women friendships. Soon after, I went to law school and met my future roommate of two years, and from there, an incredible network of women. I learned that S. was right and these women at Notre Dame were what I had been missing.

For me, law school was much more about self-realization than preparation for my future career. I arrived having graduated from a small Christian college where, for the most part, I maintained the moral code my mother and my church had instilled in me. Despite the fact that I remained relatively sheltered from the sorority girl, frat party, drunken binging experience that many college students have, college is still the place where I learned to think for myself and grew into a "feminist" and a "liberal" (the quotes are because I hate labels and because most feminists probably wouldn't consider me one and plenty of liberals might not claim me either). Law school, on the other hand, is where I experienced the rebellion that most 18 years olds experience when they go to college. This has made me the brunt of the jokes of some of my friends. One guy friend always says, "Stephanie is the only person I know who was 'wilder' at Notre Dame than she was before she went there." "Wild" is relative. My rebellion was pretty tame, but it was rebellion for me. And if it wasn't for the amazing women I met, I might have completely lost myself.

Each woman reminded me who I was in her own way. They let me be completely juvenile when I was way too old to be acting that way. They knocked me back down to reality when I became too full of myself. They held me accountable for my actions. They refused to let me be controlled by my insecurities and put the need for attention from men before the most loyal of friends. They challenged my faith and taught me about God - that the God of the sheltered evangelical upbrining of some of us and the same God of the similarly sheltered Catholic upbringing of the rest was so much bigger than either of the boxes we had put Him in. That strong, smart, independent women all had similar struggles. That despite our experiences with men, our differing models of marriage and our various families, we all wanted something better than we had known in the past, but reflective of the good we had taken from it. That we all were grateful for the women who had forged the way before us, but that we weren't sure if we wanted it "all." We knew, however, that we wanted the option of all of it.

I can't explain the bond I share with my women friends from law school. There are at least four of us in particular that can hardly bear the thought that we live so far apart from each other. I sat at a bar in Washington, D.C. a few nights ago with one of those women and discussed this over a few glasses of wine. My flight had been cancelled that evening and I couldn't wait to get home to my husband and children the next morning, but in that moment, at that bar, my heart literally hurt thinking about not having these women near me. We talked about everything from marriage to children to religion to war to the rights of homosexuals. And we talked about how much we missed those talks and the other girls and how hard it is to find that bond with women where we live in the middle of work, marriage and motherhood.

I think of one or all of these women every day. I find myself asking what one of them would do in almost every difficult situation I encounter. I remember a funny or touching, or even hurtful, experience with at least one of them on a regular basis. I am reminded of a lesson one of them taught me or of a favorite saying or a funny quirk more often than I could count. And my heart often breaks that I don't have those women with me every day, but most of the time, I am just overwhelmingly grateful for the gift of them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Women of Notre Dame

This month's Notre Dame Magazine celebrates women. It's late and I'm too tired to keep writing, but I learned about the importance of the friendships of women in my time at Notre Dame. More soon.

Back to Work

Today was my first day back to work after a twelve week maternity leave. After I had my first son, a paralegal in my office brought me roses on the day I returned to work. She said the day she dropped her daughter off at daycare for the first time was the worst day of her life and that she cried all day. I remember feeling really uncomfortable because I had not cried, and in fact, had dropped him off quite happily. He cried A LOT and I was really looking forward to having an entire day with adults.

Today I refused to feel guilty. For some reason, I was a little more emotional about dropping Trevor off. I think it has to do with how tough of a time he has had with his acid refulx and with the fact that he is much more attached to me than Jordan ever was. But even in the midst of the slight sadness, I didn't feel guilt. He had a great day with people who have taken fantastic care of Jordan since he was a year old. Jordan is so social, verbally expressive and adaptable, and most of the credit for that belongs to Bracktown Academy. I can't wait to see how Trevor's personality develops and how it will be the same and different from Jordan.

No matter how my career evovles over the next few years, I want my boys to see me as a strong and successful woman, but a loving and involved mother. For me, that means that I will have a career of some sort, but do whatever I can to stay connected with their lives and show them how much I love them. And to do that I have to trust the people I have chosen to care for them on weekdays. I am so blessed to have found such a wonderful place.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Before His Time

I was reading this post by a friend who writes for Skirt! magazine and I was reminded of my own grandfather and what an inspiration he was to me. Like the author's grandfather, he was loving and welcoming of all people. My mother often says that they never met a stranger and that it was never an unusual occurrence for a traveling salesman or visiting evangelist to be sitting at their dinner table. After he passed away, my sister and I were going through the cedar chest in the spare bedroom at my grandparents' house. We found two cassette tapes that appeared to be interviews with my grandparents from the early nineties. Apparently, a student from the University of Kentucky's Deparment of Agriculture was doing a research project and interviewed both of my grandparents. My cousin made copies of the tapes for all of us. I will never forget when I listed to papa's interview.

I had just moved back to Kentucky from California. Papa had died just a few days before I planned to drive back (Carl, my husband, was going to come to Kentucky two weeks after I did). Carl and I flew home for the funeral, flew back to California, and then I got in my car with my friend Courtni and drove back to Kentucky. Instead of coming straight to Lexington, I went to Casey County to stay with my grandmother who was heartbroken and sick. I first put the cassette tapes in my car when I left Casey County I was afraid it would be really difficult to hear papa's voice, but instead, it was comforting. What an amazing gift that we were able to have these tapes. The interviewer asked my grandfather about farming over the course of his life and because of that, I was able to hear the story of his life. There are so many priceless words on that tape. So many of the nuances of papa's personality shine through. I laughed at his quick wit and his stubborness. I marveled at the intelligence of this man who had only an elementary school education. And I was overwhelmed with love when I heard him speak of my grandmother.

I say he was before his time because when the interviewer asked my papa if my grandmother worked outside the home, he explained that she never did. He said that many of the women they knew had taken jobs in town at the local stores, but that they decided together that she would work at home, with him. He was very clear that the farm and the income derived from it were not his, but theirs. And that all the decisions they made regarding the farm were made together. They were a partnership - what was his was hers and what was hers was his. It was very matter of fact, very soft-spoken and very simple. He had no idea that he was making such a profound statement about his view of women and the progressiveness of their marriage. He was simply stating the way it was. No wonder he produced three daughters who each took very different paths, but are successful and independent in their own ways.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wife Swap

I have a confession. I am ashamed of it, but last night I watched Wife Swap. Now, I am not one of those people who rants and raves and claims to hate reality t.v. It's not my favorite and I mourn the death of the truly funny sitcom, but there are some reality shows I like and others that are just the proverbial train wreck. I can't stop watching. But Wife Swap has always appalled me. I think it's very strange and it seems to really encourage drama in families. I also think they do a poor job of manipulating the situations and of scripting (because we know they are all scripted, right?). Because of this, I've only ever made it through 15 minutes or so. Last night was different, however, because both families intrigued me. Both were Christians. One was an extremely conservative family with 5 or 6 children. The children are home-schooled and the mother teaches all of the girls to serve the men of the family. None of the children are allowed to date until they are ready to be married, presumably when they are out of college. The women are being trained to be mothers and wives and not allowed to think of being anything else. The other family is extremely liberal. The father is a former pastor and a devout student of scripture. He is a stay at home dad and does all of the cooking and cleaning. The mom is a career woman.

The interaction between the women and their "new" families was really interesting. I was almost more disappointed in the liberal family than the Bible-thumpers. I know the producers manipulated the interactions to make them appear more extreme, but I feel like the liberal Christians had less tolerance and more judgment than the conservatives. Don't get me wrong. I was appalled that the conservatives admitted to brainwashing their children and that they squashed their 13 year old daughters attempts to think for herself, but the so-called liberals simply were not willing to even consider that these people might just have a different world-view than them.

I think I struggle with the things that disappointed me in this liberal family. I preach tolerance, but often I am the most intolerant of those I am trying to convince to practice it. Frankly, the conservative family on this show seemed to be happier and have a better connection as a family than the liberals. I think some of it was false and some of it was the result of some broken spirits, so I don't condone or envy it, but I also didn't come away wanting to have the life that the so-called liberal couple had either.

The show was so extreme and I left sad that the world was not able to see two positive examples of the way Christians can differ in their world views, but still be respectful of women.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Affect Change or Move On?

I don't usually become involved with any organization or cause that I don't buy into. For instance, I have many friends who attend churches because they like the service or the pastor. They really don't know much about the theology of the denomination or movement with which the church is affiliated and even if they do, and don't agree with particular tenants, they don't really care. They go to get what they want out of the service, or the sunday school class, or some other ministry of the church and they don't have any internal dilemma with inconsistencies between what they believe and what the church teaches. I'm not critical of these people. I wish I were more like them. There is a church here in Lexington with a very dynamic pastor who I would love to listen to every Sunday morning. He is leading the church in some groundbreaking ministries to the poor and the church is doing some things with which I would like to be involved, but I can't go there. I know too much about their denomination. Several things bother me, but at the top of my list is that they don't ordain women. I simply cannot attend a church where little girls will never be allowed to fulfill a call to ministry. I cannot teach Sunday School, or give my money or frankly, even sit in the pews every Sunday morning because, I believe I would be condoning their doctrine simply with my presence. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't believe a perfect church exists and I don't agree with all of the teachings of the one I belong to. As a matter of fact, there are many, many of their teachings I don't agree with, but there are certain baseline non-negotiables for me and ordination of women is one of them.

Like I need to "buy in" to the teachings of my church, I need to "buy in" to the strategic goals and objectives of my workplace. And for the most part, I buy in to my current law firms plans, just as I did for my former firm. But, just like my church, there are things I don't like. For the area of the country we live in and the overall state of the legal profession, my firm is quite a progressive place for women. Sadly, the legal profession has not set a very high standard. After 7 years of practice, I am left wondering whether you can be a wife, a mom and a lawyer at a big firm and be successful at all three. Many times, I think I'm not and I just want to move on. I just don't know if billable hours and motherhood can co-exist longterm. But I'm not a quitter. When I am involved with an institution or process, I like to be part of making it better. So I serve on the diversity committee and read books about breaking the barriers for women in the legal profession and attend conferences on professional development for women lawyers. I make efforts to network and get involved with women's groups and I serve on boards and help charities so I can feel fulfilled outside of work and home. With all of that, I am left questioning whether it is worth it and wondering if it's time for me to move on.

I recently resigned from the board of directors of a fantastic charity that serves people who are affected by and/or infected with HIV and AIDS. I was the president of the board for the past year. The decision to resign was excrutiating and extremely out of character for me. This charity has been through rough times over the past few years and I felt like I was a part of bringing it through some of those times, but it required an extraordinary amount of time and energy. My billable hours suffered greatly and it quite possibly could have set me back a year for partnership consideration. (When I say I'm not a quitter, what I mean is I don't know how to say no and I'm not good as setting boundaries.) I wanted so badly to stay longer because I could tell they were on the brink of some fantastic change. I wanted to be a part of that and it was so hard for me not to feel like a failure for resigning. But it was time for me to move on. My heart misses it sometimes, but I have peace that it was the right decision.

What I don't have peace about is whether I can maintain my current career and be the mother and wife I am called to be. I hesitated to type that word "called" because I hate loaded religious terminology. I am not referring to some particular role that the church has defined for me as a woman, but I am referring to my own, internal calling - from God, specifically for me to be a good wife and mother and a professional who is fulfilled and intelectually challenged, but has not sacrified her family simply to have a title. Some would say that lack of peace is my answer, but I don't believe answers lie in the absence of peace, only in the presence of it. And until I find the alternative (not working is not a financial option and wouldn't bring me peace anyway) and I have peace about it, I won't have an answer. In that waiting period, I need to find patience.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Who is this woman?

Did this woman really exist? Or is she the equivalent of an airbrushed image on a fashion magazine - the portrayal of what someone wants women to believe they should be - an impossible standard . . . ?

From Proverbs 31:10-31

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

The First Post

I've been saying I was going to do this for some time - start a book, journal, blog, something about the tension of living in the implications of feminism. Of having it all, but not knowing what to do with it. Of reconciling what appears to be my innate need to be woman with the reality that I work in a man's world and that sometimes my husband and I have reversed roles - whatever those are. And now I find myself with two weeks left in my second maternity leave and about to go back to my 7th year of practicing law, where I will be expected to focus on making partner in the next year and I've decided now is the right time to start. I'm sure I'll have plenty of free time to keep this up. Of course, even though that was sarcastic, now is the time I need it most.

I am a mother of two - an almost three year old and an almost 11 week old. I practice in a large law firm in Lexington, Kentucky. Previously, I practiced in an even larger law firm in Southern California. I have been married for 5 years (well, sort of - we divorced about two years ago and annulled our divorce (only in Kentucky) about a year ago -I'm sure there will be more on that later). I grew up here in Kentucky, went to college in Anderson, Indiana, took a year off when I worked in advertising and sold cars, went to law school at the University of Notre Dame, moved to Los Angeles, met my husband, married and four years ago, moved back here to Kentucky.

I wrote the catalyst for this blog four and a half years ago. I've posted it on a friend's blog and shared it with several people over the years, but I've never gone any farther with it. Hopefully, there will be more than one post here, but here it is:

12/15/03 - I just got off the phone with my law school roommate. Every
time I talk to her, the theme is the same: how and when are we going to figure
out how to balance our lives as women? When will we no longer be the
bread winners? When will we get to have kids? Will we ever get to
stay home and raise them? Will we ever be as domestic as we would
like? Why do we feel guilty when we don’t have dinner ready, even though
we worked all day? Why isn’t our house clean? Why aren’t we super
woman like our mothers?

These are questions so many women of my generation
face. There is a lot of talk about how feminism has complicated
things. How we are all facing a crises of gender identities. I don’t
like to jump on that band wagon because I don’t want to be mistaken as
anti-feminist. I believe in the empowerment of women and I am inspired by
and deeply indebted to those who have forged the way for me to be independent
and capable of making my own decisions, of providing for myself and to be able
to choose whatever career I desire. I am moved to tears when I think of
how far this society has come in the treatment of women and of how far we have
to go. We are not yet there, but equality is in sight.

However, I am wrestling with the reality. I am living in the implications of
freedom for women. The responsibility. The choices. The tension. And the burning desire to be WOMAN is eating away at me. In my late twenties, I am finding that I have lost something very important – my femininity. And I have spent the last several months mourning that. I think marriage has been the catalyst for bringing my loss to light. My husband and I do not have traditional roles right now. We have been married for nine months. I am a lawyer in one of the largest law firms in
the country and I make a six figure salary. He is a student – going back to school to finish his undergraduate degree. And right now, he’s not working. I thought I would be OK with that – and so did he, but we’re finding out that neither of us are. He is struggling with what seems to be the innate need of man to provide and my biological clock is ticking so loud, I’m ready to throw it out the window. Never mind the guilt I
mentioned earlier. I still feel pressure to have a clean, put together house. To cook and bake and make sure my husband is well fed. To do his laundry and just take care of him. I don’t do very much of that – he does a lot of it for himself, and for me. I know that sounds like every woman’s dream, but for me, it’s filled with guilt.

Now enter God. I remember that in college, one of my favorite chapters of the Bible
was Proverbs 31. It describes the ideal woman. She cooks, cleans, takes care of the house, takes care of the kids, clothes the family, runs the household, and supports her husband. She is upright and pure – blameless before God. The chapter ends with the verse, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” That woman always reminded me of my mom. And just as I wanted to be just like my mom when I was a kid, when I became an adult, I wanted to be just like the Proverbs woman – she was my biblical superhero.
Whenever I go home to Kentucky and watch my mom flutter about her immaculate house (you could literally eat off the floors), running errands, doing chores, going to work and taking care of me, my husband and my sister so that we don’t have to lift a
finger or want for anything – whenever I taste her delicious cooking or sleep in
her beds with the fresh sheets, or open a drawer to find everything organized, I
feel guilty. And like a failure. I’m not being woman enough. I haven’t lived up to my potential as a woman. I haven’t figured out how to be a true woman. My husband is missing out on having a GOOD wife. God wants me to be more feminine.

Lately I think my quest to find my femininity has appeared as a new-found (well, maybe a first-found) love of the color pink. I have red hair, and as a teenager, I didn’t think I was allowed to wear pink. It didn’t go with my hair. I think I read
it in a magazine somewhere. But, as an adult, I have discovered that not
only do I not care about those silly rules, but that I like pink. Really –
a lot. And I wear it. And I find myself wanting to put pink things
in my house or buy pink accessories. And it just dawned on me as I’m
writing this that this love of pink might come from my efforts to be womanly.

Now here I am, with two kids, my husband is out of school and even though I make more money for now, I don't consider myself the "bread winner." And we're back in Kentucky. For the past 10 weeks, I have been a stay-at-home mom (that's ending soon when maternity leave is
over), and I still don't have answers that are any clearer. I still struggle with the
tension. I have no idea how I'm going to work full time with two kids, but frankly, even though I love them more than life, I don't want to stay at home with them. Now, I struggle with the guilt of knowing that I couldn't survive with a newborn and a toddler at home all day. I wait until 5:45 to leave my house and pick up the toddler at the daycare just a few blocks away before the 6:00 deadline. Even though I'm home for these 12 weeks, I let him be at daycare for 10 hours. And my house still looks like a tornado went through the inside. The laundry isn't folded and put away and the dishwasher isn't loaded. We often eat take out and the toddler sometimes eats Chicken McNuggets two, or even three, times in a week. My mom and her immaculate house are now closer to me, so I have a constant reminder of how I'm not superwoman and I am confused about whether I even want to be. Despite the fact that I don't want to stay at home, I'm not willing to sacrifice my family for my career and I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible not to. I can't find anyone who has done it (taken the traditional professional path in their chosen career - i.e., no temporary reduced schedule, no delayed partnership, etc. - and truly not sacrificied their family), and as the prospect of partnership approaches, I don't know if I'm cut out to do what I need to do to make it AND to be the mom I want to be. So, this is the beginning of my sorting through that dilemma. I might be the only reader, or it might strike a chord with you. Feel free to share if it does.